As we pulled into our hostel I tried not to get my hopes up too much for the what the next few days had in store for me. There was so much hype built up around Fraser Island. Everyone and anyone I had met so far on my travels has said Fraser Island was the complete highlight of their trip. Since we began our road trip I’ve been dying to see the island, but all of a sudden I was nervous it wouldn’t live up to everything I expected it to be.
My eldest brother backpacked around Oz and New Zealand about ten years ago and always spoke about what an experience Fraser had been. Turns out I booked my island safari with the same group he did his with, Dingo Adventure Tours. And what an adventure it was…
Through bleary eyes the group sat through a quick safety briefing of how to drive the cars in sand and off-road. God love the staff they tried hard but were met with a sea of bleary eyes and wide yawns. There were eighteen people in the group and we all hit it off the night before with a few (too many) beers in the hostel bar. I was amazed at how great we all got on! We were a mixture of British, Irish a handful of Germans and Dutch and one Canadian – I Accidentally mistook him for American and I thought he was going to slap me, lesson learned!
Our tour guide Jabba (no I’m not joking that’s his actual name) was like someth my frm Crocodile Dundee. Dressed in his kaki shorts, he was missing shoes and had a tan to die for. Jabba assigned us to our cars and we all piled in. To drive the 4WDs on Fraser, you must be over 21 with a full licence…well that ruled me out! But I happily took my seat in the back with my new friends and jabbered on, pointing out the scenery like a giddy child. These 4WDs are some serious cars! The wing mirror stood over my shoulder and it took one giant knee-raising step to get up into the seats. We knew once we we settled in we were in for a bumpy ride!
We were ferried over in our cars and once we were off, we hit the highway of Fraser Island. The highway of Fraser is actually just the beach, where 4×4 cars thunder up and down over the sandy hills. Everyone who wanted got a turn in driving on the beach. If you’re a confident driver, I would recommend bringing your licence. Everyone on the trip absolutely loved being behind the wheel and I regret not driving now!
We bombed along the beach, blaring our cheesy music and revving the engines to our hearts’ content. We drove for about an hour, which didn’t get us very far on Fraser as the island is actually the size of Hong Kong! Just as the beach scenery started to get a little repetitive, we spotted it! A beautiful sandy coloured dingo snooping along with its nose to the ground. We were given a safety talk previously on how to handle a situation should you encounter a dingo. These animals get a bad rap, but they generally keep to themselves.
Jabba reassured us that if we leave the dingos alone, they’ll leave us alone. They’re scavengers and spend their days looking for food. If you keep your supply locked away and don’t act like an idiot around them, you won’t have any trouble. Of course there is always that one idiot. Jabba once had a case where two drunken fools grabbed a raw piece of steak and went off in the dark in search for dingos. It’s safe to say it didn’t end well and helicopters were called to the island.
Our first stop on our safari was the beautiful Lake Birrarbeen. I could barely contain my excitement as we pulled up closer. When I thought of Australia, I thought of white sand and crystal clear waters. I was promised that on Fraser Island, but still was reluctant a paradise like that actually existed. Jabba huddled us all around to unload some lake facts on us but I just couldn’t wait. I bounded down the path ahead of the crowd and was the first to the lake. It was exactly like I pictured it! Pristine waters and untouched sand. I was so overwhelmed I didn’t take my usual 50 million pictures! But here’s just a few to give you an idea:
Next up was the eagerly anticipated Lake McKenzie. Search the hashtag on Instagram and you’ll find all the cliche pictures of posey girls surrounded by crystalline water and a green backdrop…and I couldn’t wait to be one of them! We were told not to wear any sunscreen, makeup, fake tan, etc,. into this lake as it’s purely a rain-filed lake with no streams running out of it. What goes into that lake stays in the lake and any chemicals will damage the ecosystem.
Once we’d snapped all our typical pictures and soaked in some rays our bellies began to rumble. We set off in the cars once again and headed to camp. With Dingos Tour, you camp in tents, make your own campfires and cook your own meals. If you’re not outdoorsy this tour may not be for you. But honestly, camping for the three days was what made this trip memorable!!
Dingos supply you with all your food, but the group prepares, cooks and cleans everything. We surprisingly all worked well together, and within the hour had a delicious chicken stir fry gobbled down! The last bite had barely passed my lips when the goon started flowing around me! The only thing that wasn’t supplied on this trip was the alcohol, and with no civilisation around for miles, people stocked up mighty! With our goon-filled cups, a roaring campfire and a wicked German with a guitar, the atmosphere was amazing!
As the group got to know each other better, the drinking games emerged and by 1am we were pumping the tunes in a make-shift night club (basically just glorified shed with a speaker and a disco ball) and dancing around the campfire.
We grabbed a few flashlights and traipsed on down to the beach to look at the stars. In a hazy walk back to the campsite we somehow managed to loose Darren! He eventually wandered back in true Darren style un-phased and ready to continue the party. I couldn’t believe how quickly a few drinks turned into one of the best sessions I’ve had in my life! I guess that the beautiful thing about combining goon, travelling and new friends!
I don’t know what woke me. It could have been the pounding headache, the almighty screeches of the rainforest animals, or the fact I was shivering cold. The one thing Jabba insisted on was keep your tent closed at all times. An open zipper on a tent, even just a few centimetres, will invite spiders, geckos, snakes and even dingos in on top of you. That memo clearly didn’t reach Darren or I. I rolled over and I found both our pairs of legs dangling out of the tent with the entrance gaping wide open. We hadn’t even made it the full way in before we gave into the goon and fell asleep half way out of the tent. Whoops.
Day two was spent more in the rainforest than on the beach. We visited Indian Head Point, a breathtaking lookout where you can oversee the whole north point of the island. The Aboriginal people were thrown off this main point down to the Sharks below if they revelled against the colonists. On a clear day you can look down and still spot sharks weaving in and out of the rocks.
Fraser is a breeding ground for sharks so the water is infested with them and is an absolute no-no to go swimming here. The only place safe to swim in the ocean on the whole Island is the Champagne Pools. These are enclosed rock pools where the waves come crashing in. The water here is so foamy and bubbly, it feels like you’re swimming in champagne!
The third lake we visited could not be further from the lakes we visited the previous day. Tea Tree Lake, as the name obviously suggests, is a black lake surrounded by the roots of tea trees. It’s also known as the Healing Lake as tea tree oil is good for just about anything.
My new mate Matt had a pretty gnarly wound on his foot from cutting in on coral and he dove straight in to help clean the cut. After swimming we all sat back and chilled. While admiring the scenery, we noticed little turtle heads started poking out of the water. They swam closer and closer until the were right at our feet!
We finished off our second day with a trip to the famous shipwreck on the island. Heads were starting to nod and the hunger was setting in once again so I’m not really sure if any were wowed by this boat. However, me being the total history nerd I am lapped up everything Jabba had to say about this boat, and it’s actually very interesting!
The SS Maheno washed ashore Fraser in 1935. She was a hospital ship used by the Aussies in WWI. When she was no longer in working order she was sold to the Japanese to make weapons and ammunition, which ultimately would have been used against the Australians. It’s almost like a twist of fate that the Japanese sank the boat and it’s now one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions. Apparently when the Japanese crew washed ashore on Fraser, they were too afraid of the native people and stayed on the ship for three days, terrified the Aboriginal people would eat them!
The group had well and truly bonded and this stage and we were dreading leaving the island. Our second night was pretty much a repeat of the night before, minus loosing Darren and sleeping out with the snakes! We were given steaks to cook and the boys were in their element grilling them on the BBQ. The girls sat back and roasted marshmallows while we waited to be served; I could get used to this life!
While we did party the night away, we were still very respectful of our surroundings. Our campsite was situated on Aboriginal land, and we were given very strict rules to adhere by while staying here.
The native people are a very spiritual kind, and Jabba insisted it was of the utmost importance to adhere by their rules. We were forbidden to whistle while inside the campsite. The aboriginals believe there is a “spirit bird” who guards the camp from back spirits. If this bird hears any other whistling around his area, he will scare and fly off, leaving the native people without any protection from these bad spirits. The group were also forbidden to spit in the fire. It’s seen as the utmost of disrespect and I was quite proud of our group for taking these requests to seriously
We decided to make the most of our last day as we headed to Eli Creek. If you want to clear a foggy head from the night before this is the way to do it! We dived into the freezing cold water and let the strong current float us all the way back to the start. If I’ve one piece of advice for Fraser, it’s come with an open mind. You might not be into camping, hiking and jumping into freezing cold lakes, but it’s all about the experience! When you’re seventy years old, are you going to remember all that sunbathing you did or will you remember jumping into water so cold it took your breath away?
With heavy hearts, we packed up our sleeping bags and said goodbye to our campsite we’d called home for three days. Yes it was rough, and yes I was dirty but it was the most fun I think I’ve ever had. The campsite became our little sanctuary away from the real world. With no phone reception and nothing to do but sit around the fire and chat, I think I learned more about my Fraser Island friends than I know about some of my best friends at home.
I think I hit the jackpot with the group I joined on Fraser. They made it the best experience possible and definitely one to remember forever. So here’s to you, Freddie, Tobi, Vanessa, Carine, Jackie, Siobhan, Linn, Tracy, Becky, Troy, Jarred, Kate, Sam, Katie, Matt and Callum!!
For more information on Dingo Tours, click here.